NOAA EPP/MSI CCME II — Developing student scholars to scientists

The NOAA EPP/MSI Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems II offsite link (CCME II) continues its mission to recruit, educate, train, and graduate a new generation of scientists, particularly those from underrepresented communities in NOAA mission-aligned STEM disciplines. The center is led by Florida A&M University and includes the following partner institutions: Bethune Cookman University, Jackson State University, California State University at Monterey Bay, University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi.

A group of people in matching blue shirts with CCME logos pose in front of a large, docked vessel.

Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems II scholars and NOAA staff participate in a Center-Wide Core Competency Course at the Florida Institute of Oceanography. (Image credit: Vern Shurtz)

Scholars are studying disciplines such as environmental science, marine biology, computer science, and biology. The training from CCME II has provided opportunities for scholars to develop their interests in NOAA mission-aligned fields and careers. For example, CCME II undergraduate scholar Miles Jordan completed his bachelor’s in environmental science from Florida A&M University in December and is continuing his education in graduate school. He shared, “The program provided me with diverse research projects, scientific conferences, and learning skills that I will use in my career (i.e., coding). The mentorship from CCME II has been instrumental in my growth as a rising scientist. The opportunities provided by CCME II helped me solidify my passion for marine science, as well as gave me the expertise and tools to further my education and better protect our natural resources.”

CCME II scholars are engaged in professional development, including its seminar series designed to provide training, exposure to NOAA datasets and tools, and opportunities to network with prospective mentors. Scholars engaged in other experiential training, including the Ocean Exploration Trust offsite link Nautilus Seafloor Mapping Internship offsite link and the NOAA SEAMAP Groundfish Survey offsite link. This fall, the center’s professional development featured speakers from NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, NOAA Fisheries, and the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Topics included social science integration in research, applications of the NOAA Voices Oral History Archive, and fundamentals to perform a climate vulnerability assessment.

Since 2016, 77 CCME students have participated in NOAA Experiential Research and Training Opportunities (NERTOs) and other internships across 33 different NOAA labs, centers, and offices, including at the following NOAA line offices:

NERTOs NOAA line office
30 NOAA Fisheries
29 National Ocean Service
12 NOAA Research
5 National Weather Service

CCME scholars frequently conduct NERTOs at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, Southeast Fisheries Center, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. The number of NERTOs at these sites are:

16 National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science
7 Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory
4 Northeast Fisheries Science Center - Sandy Hook
4 Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
4 Southeast Fisheries Science Center - Galveston

NERTOs provide an opportunity for scholars to develop their research interests and receive mentorship and guidance to transition into the NOAA workforce. In November 2023, CCME II scholar Geaceli Orive developed a blog offsite link to highlight her NERTO experience at the Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SFSC) in Pascagoula, Mississippi. The center recently released an alumni report offsite link to highlight its graduates. The report includes alumni testimonials along with current job position or enrollment in graduate programs. Along with NOAA, center alumni are employed at other federal agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Energy, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency. CCME alumni have pursued graduate study at Florida A&M University, Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi, the University of South Carolina, the University of Washington, the University of California at Santa Cruz, as well as the University of Rhode Island's School of Oceanography.

Between September and December 2023, CCME II scholars and faculty made presentations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (J. Cho, Ph.D, Bethune Cookman University), the Texas Master Naturalist Annual Meeting (David Hicks, Ph.D., and Erin Easton, Ph.D., University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley). CCME II students Imani Ford and Alyssa Outhwaite presented at the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation meeting.

The award to CCME II supports capacity building at all academic institutions. This includes a pending partnership between Bethune Cookman University and the NOAA Effects of Sea Level Rise Program (ESLR) to improve the estimation of vertical water levels using cloud sensors. Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi has created a new course on Environmental and Geological Applications of GIS (aligns with the coastal intelligence thematic area as well as hiring two Assistant Professors in Environmental Science. Additional center highlights are featured in the CCME II quarterly newsletter. offsite link